Several weeks after Hurricane Matthew barreled up the East Coast, the public is beginning to take a good look at the performances of the governors in each state.
And, let’s just say, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is looking very good, while Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s performance left a bit to be desired.
According to a recent story in The Post and Courier in Charleston, Haley’s steadfast warnings earned her serious praise throughout the Palmetto State.
“Observers have hailed Haley’s early decision to evacuate residents along the South Carolina coast and for repeatedly keeping the public updated as the situation developed, usually twice a day,” wrote The Post and Courier. “The storm is the third time in as many years that Haley has made decisions from the state’s command center in West Columbia during a crisis. She was credited for deftly overseeing ice storms in 2014 and record flooding last year.”
Critics praised Haley as doing a “great job executing the disaster plan and listening to her advisors while sending a clear and consistent message of voicing the dangers of the hurricane.”
Three days before Matthew struck, Haley announced staggered evacuations for coastal counties while calling for the reversal of the eastbound lanes on Interstate 26 to avoid clogging the highway with residents leaving the Charleston area, the newspaper reported.
The governor urged residents to travel at least 100 miles inland to be safe from the storm. Of the estimated 1.1 million people asked to evacuate, about one-third left their homes, the paper reported.
While Hurricane Matthew did not have near the devastating impact on the East Coast that many feared, the South Carolina coast still suffered severe damage from flooding.
Bob McAlister, who served as chief of staff for former S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, told The Post and Courier that Haley’s early calls for evacuations were extremely wise.
“I dare say, with their pro-action on this and the way she’s handled it, lives have indeed been saved,” he said.
Some say her efforts and clear leadership have put her in a strong position to possibly run for national office in 2020.
Over here in Georgia, the reviews of the governor have been quite different.
This week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story detailing serious concerns about the state’s emergency response team.
“Hundreds of documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an Open Records Act request show a frenzy of activity as state officials prepared to move inmates, ready road-clearing equipment and evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from the Category 2 storm,” the newspaper reported. “Staffers were besieged with last-minute advice from other emergency experts… Unsubstantiated rumors — including an erroneous report of eight dead homeless people — mixed in with the official reports.”
The newspaper did not paint a pretty picture.
“Shortly after the storm raked Georgia, leaving four dead and tens of millions of dollars in damage in its wake, there was apparent turmoil among the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s top staff,” the paper reported. “Clint Perkins, GEMA’s state operations center director, emailed the staff his thanks days after the storm passed in what appeared to be a farewell note… And Jim Butterworth, tapped by Gov. Nathan Deal about two years ago to head the agency, sent word shortly after the storm that he was leaving for a private-sector job.”
There seemed to be serious problems within the state’s EMA just prior to the storm.
“The documents provide a glimpse into the state’s response to the deadly storm, among the fiercest to hit Georgia in decades. And it was the most pointed test yet of Deal’s new emergency strategy, honed after the state’s embarrassing flub of the 2014 ice storm that paralyzed metro Atlanta,” the newspaper wrote.
Deal admitted there were a few concerns with Georgia’s response, even though he deemed the state’s actions as “exceptional.”
“That’s not to say we didn’t have problems,” Deal told the newspaper, noting the four deaths from falling trees. “But we tried to give as much warning to encourage people to evacuate the most prone areas. Overall, we had great cooperation from the residents of those areas.”
Prior to the hurricane, Deal had ordered six southeast counties to be evacuated.
Once the storm had passed, it still took time for residents to be allowed to return to their homes.
“Deal, who visited Brunswick for a press conference after the storm passed, faced hostility from some residents who tried to return home but were turned away by state troopers,” the newspaper reported. “Deal blamed the ‘confusion’ on a failure of communication between emergency responders and transportation officials who had not finished their inspection of bridges and roads possibly damaged by the storm.”
Whether the public believes Haley did a better job warning the public as soon as possible or Deal was more sensible in taking a more conservative approach to the storm, it is just lucky that both the Georgia and South Carolina coasts were spared from complete devastation from Hurricane Matthew.
After all, who really care about politics when people’s lives are at stake, right?